The other Michael B. police shooting | WisCommunity

The other Michael B. police shooting

 

There is a scene in one of the “Naked Gun” movies in which Lt. Frank Drebbin, played by Leslie Nielson, is asked to turn in his badge. Drebbin responds, “but now if I shoot somebody I could be charged with a crime.”

Nothing illustrates better the difficulty of getting any kind of accountability when a police officer murders a citizen. Notice I used the term murder. Why not. If you get away with murder you are still a murderer in my view.

Whether the death of Michel Brown in Ferguson, Missouri will result in any significant criminal charges or even a conviction is an open question. If history is any guide I am not optimistic.

One only needs to turn to the other Michael B. case, a 21-year-old Kenosha man who, in 2004, was shot in the head at point blank range while he was in police custody in front of his own house in front of his mother and sister.

The Kenosha Police Department quickly concluded it was a justifiable homicide and the officer who kllled Bell is still on the job today.

It took years of civil litigation to reveal that the investigation conducted by the killer's co-workers was a whitewash and evidence that would have justified a homicide charge was suppressed.

In Ferguson it is apparent the Ferguson Police Department is incapable of investigating their own and have already meddled in the case with the release of the convenience store robbery video. Certainly with the Justice Department involved there is less chance of a whitewash. But for the most part, police shooting cases are investigated by their peers who focus on clearing their comrades.

Michael Bell's parents launched a campaign to have all police-involved shooting cases investigated by an outside agency and, in the spring of this year the bill passed the Wisconsin legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker. This makes Wisconsin the only state with such a law.

In a recent Michel Bell's father noted that it is too convenient to view the Ferguson case through the lens of racism. His son was white, as was his killer. It is about police accountability and that can't happen when police investigate themselves.

Shortly after passage of the law 31, was shot 15 times by a police officer in Milwaukee's Red Arrow Park. Police claim Hamilton grabbed the officer's baton. Only in the past week was that investigation completed and forwarded to the district attorney's office. It remains to be seen how well the Michael Bell law will play out.

The law was passed in Wisconsin because of the unstoppable force of the Bell family. But let's hope the idea catches on countrywide. Justice demands it.

Published

August 20, 2014 - 12:37pm

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